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Governor welcomes travelers as COVID counts and hospitalizations drop

AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File

HONOLULU — Hawaiʻi's COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations have declined to the point where the islands are ready to welcome travelers once again, the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. David Ige said vacationers and business travelers are welcome to return to the islands starting Nov. 1.

His announcement comes nearly two months after he asked travelers on Aug. 23 to avoid Hawaiʻi because case counts were surging with the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant and hospitals were becoming overwhelmed. The state didn't impose any new travel quarantine restrictions, and Ige's plea was a mere request.

Even so, it prompted thousands of travelers to cancel plans to visit Hawaiʻi.

In the intervening months, Hawaiʻi's seven-day average of daily new cases has plummeted from 900 to 117. COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped from more than 400 to about 100 statewide.

“I think we are all encouraged by what we’ve seen over the last several weeks with the continuing trend of lower case counts,” Ige said in a remark at a ceremony opening a new airport facility in Kailua-Kona.

Kona international airport federal inspection facility unveiling 10192021
Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation Airports Division
Kahu Daniel Akaka Jr. dedicates the permanent Federal Inspection Site on Oct. 19, 2021. Left to Right: HDOT Deputy Director for Airports, Ross Higashi; Gov. David Ige; Kahu Daniel Akaka Jr.; Mayor Mitch Roth; and Hawaiʻi District Airports Manager Chauncey Wong-Yuen.

“Our hospitals are doing better, and we have fewer COVID patients in them. Most importantly, our health care system has responded, and we have the ability to move forward with economic recovery," he said.

To avoid a 10-day quarantine upon arrival, travelers must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their departure for Hawaiʻi.

The governor said Hawaiʻi was seeking information from the federal government about its plans to require foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. to show proof of vaccination beginning Nov. 8.

Hawaiian Airlines, which is one of the state's biggest employers, has said it will be crucial for Hawaiʻi to match its travel policies with federal rules on international travel to avoid confusion and eliminate redundant screening.

Most visitors to Hawaiʻi during the pandemic have come from the other 49 states, in part because countries like Japan still have strict quarantine requirements for those returning to home after traveling abroad.

Hawaiʻi Lodging and Tourism Association President Mufi Hannemann said the industry is pleased with Ige's announcement. He said the reopening will be a major step in the state's economic recovery.

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